Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA): An Intro

As I work over the coming months to provide research and analysis on New Mexico’s forthcoming Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan - due in April - I’m building up my own knowledge on the act, its genesis and likely impacts on The Land of Enchantment.

This of course is no easy task. The more I read and the more conversations I have the more obvious it becomes that ESSA is a Rorschach inkblot test of sorts. For every person who sees ESSA as an opportunity to improve upon education reforms NM has undertaken, there is another who views ESSA as the perfect chance to undo school grades, pull back teacher evaluation or abolish the Secretary of Education position.

The truth exists somewhere in between. We must do the hard work to both improve upon current reforms and work with educators, parents, students and business and community leaders to bring forth innovations representative of and rooted in our deep sense of cultural identity.

While there are hundreds upon hundreds of resources to better explain ESSA, I’ve found a recent series by the American Enterprise Institute to be particularly helpful. AEI has created a series of short briefs to provide high-level background information, as well as different perspectives on the law’s specifications and implications. Here are some key tidbits:

  • ESSA passed with broad bipartisan support and was signed into law by President Obama on December 10th, 2015
  • ESSA provides states more flexibility to set their own policy agendas
  • ESSA gives states significantly more autonomy to set policy on issues like teacher evaluation and school accountability/grades

Indeed the power is in our hands to shape New Mexico’s public education for a better tomorrow. Will we continue to look backwards? Or will we boldly reimagine what’s possible for our students and support them with 21st century educations?

As stated in the AEI brief, “Ultimately, ESSA’s ceiling depends on whether state and local leaders maintain the status quo or take advantage of the law’s flexibility to design solutions that best suit their schools and communities.”